I am very proud of the work happening in the Platte Canyon School District. Our students are achieving at a high rate, and students are growing. But we can still do better.

It is amazing that we have been able to maintain critical programs such as art, music, drama, and STEAM. But our students need more. We need to increase our pathways to graduation by expanding career and technical programming and workforce development partnerships.

While everyone is committed to providing the best education possible, we are facing significant financial challenges. Colorado currently ranks 42nd in the nation in per pupil spending, which has negatively affected critical student services like special education and mental health. In some cases, these programs have disappeared altogether, and our students deserve better.

In Colorado, we are severely under-funding special education services. Only Arizona and Oklahoma spend less for students with special needs. State and federal funds for students with disabilities aren’t keeping up with increased special education costs, leading school districts to put increasing amounts of their general fund towards those services.

We want to provide the best special education services we can, because we know our children deserve it. Our students deserve better.

In light of recent events, mental health funding has been garnering plenty of attention. More than 15 percent of Colorado children have some form of mental health issue, and alarmingly, one out of five children in Colorado has seriously considered suicide.

At a time when enrollment is increasing across the state, budget pressures have decimated the ranks of school counselors. This has caused the counselor-to-student ratio to widen, leaving fewer resources for our children at all levels of schooling. Our students deserve better.

And it’s not just these services that are suffering. Colorado also has a severe shortage of teachers resulting from a lack of support and training tools, as well as inadequate pay.

Although teachers are continually being asked to do more, the average Colorado teacher’s salary is $7,000 below the national average.

This makes it difficult to recruit talented teachers, which hurts our competitiveness and our ability to provide students with a quality education. Across the state, about 3,000 to 3,500 openings need to be filled for the coming school year alone. Our students deserve better.

Colorado’s growth should benefit all families and communities, and all students deserve the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential. Fortunately, as the state expects a budget surplus, we can do better. Lawmakers will soon be debating what to do with these resources.

That’s why school districts and superintendents have launched the “Kids Matter Too” movement to connect Colorado students, parents, and teachers with lawmakers.

Lawmakers need to hear from voters about the importance of funding our schools and that these are issues Colorado families care about. Critical decisions are being made that may profoundly impact our school district.

There is always more need than resources, but we need to prioritize our children’s future and remind lawmakers that kids matter too. Reach out today to put children first.

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